Interview with Keith Brofsky
Keith brodsky is going to join us now and keith is sitting over here and he's going to come up here and I'm gonna push the slide button puts keith lovely picture thanks thanks for coming my pleasure. All right learned something just in the last few minutes so well, cool that's it is fun, isn't it? The whole thing is fascinating passing it reinforces what I've been through all these years and I and I didn't have some of that I've done right? Thank you exactly. Yeah, we kind of discover, isn't it it's kind of funny how we kind of discover that you figure it out as you go trial nearer quite a bit right now and you and I have had a whole bunch of phone calls and conversations and skype so over the last few months and kind of gotten to know each other, which has been kind of fun because we actually didn't work together, I don't think unfortunately we never were. I would have enjoyed that that would have been fun now, but just, you know, we were talking about doing a thing for photographers ...
at one point and then we just kind of got to know each other and then this thing kind of popped up as an opportunity and I thought keith keith keith would be great on here I have the gift of gap and it's it's funny after you know all the years of working in the industry you to learn and you don't realize you're absorbing as much as you are oh yeah you learn in time you learn how to set limits you learn how to deal with the circumstances that you're very uncomfortable with when you start out you know so you gain some experience and so you're more you're more poised in those circumstances and so on yeah and uh you are a photographer yes yes of the for my entire life it seems right and you've been in the northwest you live on bainbridge island which is probably a lovely place and you rode your motorcycle here I just always a kick it iss iss it's always fun to be a little on the edge yeah wear my helmet and you have a passion and a joy and a privilege in the way you feel about the work you do I picked that up off your website that's good that's good here I feel very lucky to known what I wanted to be when I grew up right? I always joke that I the only other thing I might have rather done is be a rock star famous actor or something like that but uh you know it's the next best thing right now exactly exactly and uh one of the things I like to talk about is how because I've expertise is begins really early in our lives and I really am tryingto tio to ram home that idea that it's really important and it's and it's and we draw on those experiences from our childhood our entire lives and even when we're starting out uh, you know, in our twenties we actually have fifteen, twenty years of thinking about doing what it is we're doing in some form we've been working on it since we were like five, six or seven or whatever it is so I was wondering if you could tell one of those stories about how you got started if you insist yes, I always thought it was well, I've heard a number of people say that they've been through this very same experience so I that's why I just about it but it's it is interesting how the seats get planted early on right? And I see that with my own kids actually, uh but yeah, I actually uh uh was given the, uh the brownie camera which states me but I was a kid of the sixties and teenager in the seventies and my my parents handed me the brownie they were tired of it, they wanted to move on to the instamatic and so I was ten years old yeah, you know, which actually they didn't realize that was moving down because instamatic was nowhere near as cool as the brownie but anyway they're the brownie it's shot square format which for years to this day I love a square for matt I don't know you know uh feels artful to me but at any rate uh believe it or not ted at ten years old I was uh developing prints in a little dark room kit designed for kids in the closet you know and I even still have them they're like you know tiny little squares and uh it's just ignited you know, spark my mom was a fine artist and I could draw you know, like I could draw likenesses and whatnot and my father was jewelry watch repairman so I thought well, you know they combined the two it's a technical art form uh and uh so I did that for awhile and at the age of tender age of ten and then you know probably put it down at the age of eleven but then I entered high school and was given the chance to shoot for the yearbook and it just you know, it just clicked so yearbook photographer yeah for that's classic isn't it isthe and you know, of course then you know they ended me a thirty five millimeter with a long lens and oh my gosh it's nirvana you know and uh and I was aware even in high school that this was opening some doors for me you know, I noticed I could get behind the scenes and observe and uh and watch uh how uh you know how things are done and just you know, just it gave me access you know? So it was it was just a lot of fun to capture everything that was going on and to express it you still have the annuals you shot yeah they're an embarrassment you know what I mean? You know is that the printing in the darkroom lacked in some expertise but yes, I do have those you know you could see I had a knife that's your sure yeah even then I had no sure yeah I don't know whether that's in eight I mean I don't know if it could be it could be doing a dna could be now I like to think so yeah uh what else you know it I think I was telling you while we were having lunch recently that uh the other thing inspiration for me and, uh, one of the folks here actually mentioned the same thing is that national geographic was a huge inspiration for me and to this day I just love looking at national geographic you know, uh the photography and there has always been exemplary yes and it's very much storytelling imagery that is based on the spontaneity of and of course we photographers blake their very nature love to explore and so it's it's a given that we're going love travel you know so uh it's very much a uh uh a natural combination to try to, you know, to want to do that that that that definitely just looking at how images were uh portrayed in that magazine that really inspired me and still does yeah, I really have always been a photojournalist at heart, you know, because of that story telling the story telling in the decisive moment that's always been uh what I found to be the magic of photography is that you're capturing something that is so fleeting and this life itself its light who it's always changing and to be able to capture that and convey it to the viewer is it's just always it always gives me a little thrill and and I hold on to that you know the matter all these years that's always been the driving force, so from from high school where did you go then? So I was procrastinating about where to go to college for this and one day the guidance counselor saw me walking down the hall and just literally grabbed me by the collar, drag me in his office uh and he said he'd been thinking about this so he had it all planned out hey wanted me to go to rochester is to technology there was a small company called kodak that's then think made this stuff called film and so they funded rochester institute and it was a pretty well known school on the east coast. I'm from the east coast so it made sense but I was laid in applying I was put on the waiting list even though I was a good student I was even on the honor roll and I got put on the waiting risk waiting so I uh uh they said well, you know, you can transfer credits from a few other schools and one of them was colorado mountain college, huh uh, cmc we called it see me ski and, uh you know, that light pole went off quickly because I love skiing even those things so that that was my that was my mission to so I moved to colorado and uh and I was planning to transfer credits and moved back to rochester, but when I visited the campus itjust happened it was march and in rochester in march it was like seattle it was dark, rainy cold and I thought, I don't think I really want to live in rochester even for a few years, so I stayed in colorado and I just dove into the business and, uh I assisted for a number of years after school in denver and that was I mean, that's another wonderful thing about this career is that you can learn on the job almost like an apprentice yeah, sure. And the best way to learn why do really is I know that I mean, this school didn't teach business right this typical of schools right? They they either teach art fine art or in this case it was commercially oriented right? But so did they have a photography program? Yeah was specific to commercial photography it was an applied science degree it was a good man was quite good actually for what it wass you know, they taught us uh the basics of lighting and composition and you know how to make you know, it was a lot of dark room in those days and uh what else? They, uh they taught us how to survive while trying to be a photographer which was lab work in those days it was you got a job in the lab and right making prints or something like that, right? Which is sort of an irony there because of course we've photographers want toby out in the world right capturing light and suddenly you're in a dark room all time, right? Not not fun. That wasn't really what I wanted, but I did it in a ski town, right? So that was okay I ski by day and printed by night yeah, now the skin was good scheme was fantastic. Yeah, I kind of missed the powder but uh yeah, so it's it's ah it was it took me on a journey which I'm grateful for no, I uh I knew I wanted to make a living at it though so I surprisingly I had this entrepreneurial spirit that I decided okay I've got to figure out how do I do this and actually make a living right even then I didn't think I wanted to do weddings right portrait so I I just I don't know why I wanted to do you know advertising and grand marshal so by assisting in denver uh I was able to sample some of that and different photographers and assisting assisting which was your avenue professional avenue yeah I'd say so yeah, just just even learning the business you know, because that was again that was what was lacking in the college shirt I think it's critical if you're going to be even having a, uh the slightest inclination towards running a business I think it's crit crucial and it's been the hardest thing about you know, the profession when I think back I mean it z and it's what you're teaching today I mean it's really it's it's a finance and then are you no in and of itself um so one of the stories that you told me was a negotiation story that really, really kind of captured me and um uh you uh in which you you we're talking with a client and this sort of situation unfolded was in a really interesting sort of negotiation uh process and I want you to have secured share it with with with our group and handle our folks online okay, yeah, it was great to be able to share this with ted because he he got it he knew uh what? You know it's apparently we all go through it and I was I was it was it was very affirming that you said oh, you did good you know? Because I mean, you know it's like working in a vacuum you never really know with all right? So basically I haven't we need feedback that's a really good plan for talk about way all need feedback human beings are social animals we need feedback. One of the dangers when we work by ourselves is we don't get enough feedback so we need to be we need teo get confirmation we did the right thing or a correction if we did the wrong thing we need that that's just a fundamental part of being a human being and it's one of the problems of being freelance frankly, yeah yeah, it really is true and and you know and when you're talking money it's it's always awkward anxiety it isthe on both sides of the of the of coin absolutely so I have a steady client and uh uh it was somewhat predictable over the past year and a half where I was doing a particular project and it was the pricing was fairly straightforward was more based on time than anything else but then that study phase and it and then it was anyone's guess what was coming next and so there was this sudden project came up uh sounded more substantial to me it seemed like it was bigger than maybe it was but it sze constantly having to feel it out and and ask the right questions and uh uh so I was uh I wasn't sure you know it seemed like it was going to be bigger than it was but then when they start talking about it it seemed like well is maybe they're just embellishing it in their own mind and this is a piece of cake to actually produce so uh uh as always I'm always trying to figure out what where the client stands in terms of the budget and and I've gotten braver about asking that question you know, uh I mean, I heard rule long ago that you don't mean whoever throws the number out first loses and I don't know if that's true or not but I could talk extensively about that that you're good so well so I managed to ask the crowd getting better it asking the questions so you know what type of bird budget do you have and can you share that with me? I say it as gently as possible and uh and a times I get the response I get is well, we don't know and we just need you to tell us what it costs so it's like I was in my mind it's like a it's like a volley you know, like like a ping pong game I don't know you take the ball uh so I uh I was shocked that she blurted out define very nice lady she blurted and she knew of a job so I'm sensitive to that and it's our first time working together and she she I could tell she was almost afraid to say it she was hesitant she looked down at the ground and said, well, you know, we have a ten thousand dollars it's about ten k and you know, those kinds of projects have been a little rare thanks to the recession you know? So I was would be you and I'm thinking right away I'm thinking wow that's that's a nice change of pace you know and and I you know, it's amazing how fast the brain works works in those situations or you started thinking okay, so we make a ten k I can spend it on this and it's not gonna be buying a book you know? I had it spent already, right, so uh I said, oh you know try to be nonchalant isand something like oh yes that's that's fine we have weak definitely work with that and uh and then that was that that's where it left we left it at that and I go back to my office can I'm thinking and then she says ok, so we do need the formal estimate can you get that to me and the little and so then I get that sinking feeling you know like, oh no, I've got to put this on paper and I uh I was really grappling with it you know? I didn't know how to there were a number of factors I mean I had to just fight to myself ten thousand dollars for a project was only gonna be shooting for a day and maybe another day of postproduction uh I couldn't do it by time and I couldn't really do it by license and people don't want to talk about licensing much anymore all right? It wasn't an ad campaign it was strictly a it was a good old fashioned brochure a subject folds it's more valuable than something online but it's still so I decided to call her and uh and try teo talk to her about it and uh and this where you commended me and I was so glad I did and in this day and age when uh uh you know, people don't talk on the phone anymore right I mean I find myself going okay what's best form of communication here yes, very good. Yeah, very important email can be so dangerous. Yes, very dangerous. You missed the subtlety and the tone and write and so I called her and I said so you mentioned you had you mentioned your budget and I wanted to know if that if I think I asked her about licensing I said, well, what do you expect that the licensing will be any broader than it is? You know and she said, oh, well, no and, uh okay, so I was I was running out of reasons to justify ten thousand dollars and and then and I said, well, I think I said something like, well, I, uh I know you have ten thousand our budget, but I don't, uh my word it try remember wish I'd written it down because it was so perfect, but I gave her room to describe, uh what that money was gonna be used for and she finally she did blurt out and admitted that oh, well, you're not going to use it all, are you? I said, no, no, I was just, you know, checking in with you that's why I called, so I'm trying to arrive at a fair price and she said, uh oh yeah, we may have to do some video and you know what she went on, you know? And she sort of blurted out a cup mumbled a few things and uh and so we were able to just really quickly come to a number that was that was reasonable and I think it ended up being like just under six thousand dollars, which was still really healthy budget felt great me and I felt relief, you know? I mean, I would've rather than ten, but I didn't I couldn't live with myself had it been, you know, uh higher than that. So yeah, so it's a one of the things I think is really interesting about this story is that we are always focused on trying to do the right thing for the client it's every one of the guests have mentioned that in one way or another, I always feel that way I know that you feel that way, so we're always focused on trying to do the right thing for the client, and the last thing we would want to do is is take more money than seemed fair. And even though it's dangled in front of us and we go, what would be so we go through the normal human response of thinking, wow, that's a lot of money and think about buying a boat or whatever um I don't know can you buy a boat for ten thousand? You probably could but it would probably a problem yeah, yeah yeah but and then we and then we kind of sorted out and figure out trying to find a way of determining what's right? What really is in the client's best interest on uh yeah it's so true and because the important parts of relationship right I was going to say you said that earlier and I thought that's so true I really do value relationships more than ever now yeah because you know I want steady work above all else, right? I'm trying to achieve steady clients shirt and it's been anything but in these in these rest of post recessionary times right? So yeah, the last thing I want to do is had the client feel like I'm being greedy or write bad overpriced or any of that, right? Yeah, exactly and I know they really appreciate me and my work they love what I've been doing so and obviously she trusted she clearly is uncomfortable with the money discussion this well right? But she trusts you and so she mentioned this full budget she probably shouldn't but she trusts you and so she knows you're not going to do something bad and then and then in the further conversations is no, no, you're not going to use that hole you don't need that full amount because I need some other things so she was collaborating immediately she was wanting to collaborate which I think is really unimportant another part of it it shows it's a shows us her sign of respect for you right and your trust yeah and it's rare actually I I wish it happened more often right? Mostly people are more guarded much, much more guarded it is because it's about money and they you know they don't want to, uh blow it you don't want to lose their corporate job right examined it happens everyday right now so she's at risk and she was fun to work with and, you know, I feel really good about how it will turn out because she loves the shots I did and I know that she'll be back for more, right? So I'd like to follow up on that point that you made about whoever throws out the number the first number out just yes, well, we're both here and we could just kick it around okay, I would love that. Okay, so it is true it is written by experts. It is written by experts that whoever throws out the first number loses it's in the dead sea scrolls is an inter oh yeah it's absolutely and dead screen earliest fragments of what was that material they wrote on that wasn't stone papa wrists or something made out of plants that we're some kind of paper like so I'm sure what's written there in some lost language yeah that whoever throws out the first number loses and I have always believed the opposite I have always believed the office it and I personally have always acted on the opposite so and I think it's a matter of personal preference so the reason I like to throw out the first pin number first is it gives me a chance to create an anchor that is high and in negotiate classic negotiations we have what are called anchors and that is the first number thrown out is like an anchor we throw out an anchor in the sand I've of course drawn cartoons of it, but I haven't put him in this show throw out the anchor and what that does is that fixes in everybody's mind this anchor point and I've always felt that if you throw out the first number and it is higher than the top of the range something I've been saying over and over again it gives you the advantage because it tends to pull and research supports this it tends to pull the whole negotiation upwards so if you throw out the first number you are throwing out an anchor and the reason I think it's an advantage is that in all negotiations the range of the hi and the lo that range can only be a certain whip or what happens is the negotiation breaks down, so if somebody throws out a number, I'm going to pay you this amount and it's too low for you, you cannot double it because if you double their number, they're going to say that's ridiculous! Why would we pay double what we offered you? We can't do that, they might pay ten percent more, they might pay maybe twenty percent more, but they would not pay one hundred percent point unless circumstances warranted it. And of course what we're seeing going on in the alfa group better world negotiation scenario that's going on right now, we're seeing that there is a case there where the number has the potential it's already high that has the potential to actually go up so I believe and I have operated on throw out the first number and throw out high, and what happens is they will be too embarrassed to go much more than twenty percent below them that's my fear like that straight up and I've always used up and it's worked fine for me that's worked fine for me. Yes, what do you do? Top tomato is wondering, what do you do when the client says there's no budget when you're getting these clients who are very much low end low but lowballing you and just want to get as much as they can for free by saying well, we don't have much of a budget we don't have any budget but you'll get experian exposure you'll get experience you'll get all of these things that photographers at least here all the time you want to answer that one uh touched on earlier it's uh it's a common problem it's uh you know, I tend to just elaborate on how our work is priced and why it's priced the way it is and how much time and equipment and value goes into it and uh you know, I try to take I'm probably too nice and I often you know ben in order to stay busy and uh and I will love cooperate with client sells I'll say you know, I'll ask him well what? I can't do it for free I mean I just draw line there listen unless it's a project that I really want to do for my own gratification but uh I've learned over the years and if you give it away it's it they don't people don't appreciate it it's really it's reverse psychology isn't there's no value for give it away there's no value so could you could you repeat the question for me arrest question woz was from top tomato says just what can we do when the client says there's no budget? Well then the short answer is then there's no assignment just say no uh but if they want something done there's always a budget there's no it's not true that there is no budget if there's no budget there's no assignment so something that I have heard I know I've heard other people say it is well is something along the lines of what we don't have any budget for this but down the road we'll use you as you know our preferred a photographer or something along those lines where it's this promise of future work for free word right now right what I think about that and I just say no to it I mean you know if you're desperate I mean this again is up to your personal situation but if you are if you're desperate you need to do what you need to do I mean that's that's that's the reality of it but it's a uh we've all heard that before right that that statement uh oh there's gonna be more coming and and or or the other one is uh you know we'll give you a credit line as though that's really that's really never done much most people don't read credit lines so it's you have to stick your head I think that's one of those cases where you talked about earlier having a hard no yeah yeah you could be polite about saying no but did you just say no thea uh we've all done things for free yeah, you know, it's, the fact is, we've all done things for free, and then we just you just have to decide what what do you want to do, make some money or do work for free? Yeah, yeah, when you put it, that simply doesn't seem it's hard now, but in the moment, you know, I mean, just honoring the question here in the moment your heart gets a little tug, you want to help. I mean, we're hardwired to help. So in the moment we get a little tug and think, well, you know, what should I do that maybe I maybe I should consider that, um, you know, it's, no there's so many worthy causes. And, uh, and I do give my time to a number of yeah, right, exactly, yeah, yeah, but I was surprised that nonprofits have budgets, you know, I mean, just because they're called nonprofits doesn't mean they don't have money to spend, right? Exactly. Yeah.